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Sias teachers scale Four Girls Mountain
Ernest Hemingway wrote: “There are only 3 real sports: bull-fighting, car racing and mountain climbing. All the others are mere games.” Stephen Turpin and Monica Wolfe knocked off the latter sport when they climbed The Four Girls Mountain during the 2007 May holiday. They were part of an exhibition from the Sias International University Outdoor Club. Joining the Americans were Chinese students Alson, the leader of the Outdoor Club, Daisy and Smile. It was the first major hiking trek for the duo, who went to school together at Lee University and are in their first year of teaching at Sias. Turpin had hiked Taibai Mountian in the spring, but the 3,700 meters (12,139 feet) was nothing compared to the 5,025 meters (16,486 ft) he now faced. “It’s in a different class of adventure for me,” he said. “It’s not something people will be talking about and I can say, ‘Yeah, I did that, too.’ There’s no one else I know who’s done it except Monica. It’s really good to be able to share it with her.” The exhibition left Zhengzhou in the Henan Province on Sunday morning, April 29. A 24-hour train ride in hard seats put them in Chengdu in the Sichuan Province. It took several days before they could find a bus to the base of the mountain because of road construction – or deconstruction. “It was like driving over pot holes for 12 hours,” Wolfe said. The bus jostled and jolted the company for half a day, finally delivering them to the base of the mountain. “It was kind of a crazy little town in the valley of the mountain,” Wolfe said. “We had a cozy dinner. It was nice to be there.” After a dinner of yak meat, they were all able to get some much-needed rest. Wednesday morning they strapped their packs to donkeys and began the hike to base camp. Base camp was located just above the snowline. Due to the altitude, their activities became limited and slowed. They pitched their tents, ate noodles cooked in melted snow and settled in for the night. “We were completely exhausted,” Turpin recalled. “Because of the altitude you could take about 20 steps and then you had to wait 10 or 20 minutes, and then take 20 steps and wait.” Thursday morning the duo awoke at 5:30 a.m. to 8 inches of fresh snow on the ground and still sleeping guides and fellow hikers. The snow covered and froze the stream so there was no fresh water in the morning to cook with or drink. At 7:30 a.m., the rest of the crew was still sleeping, so to keep warm, Turpin and Wolfe started up the mountain. The rest of the group caught up later that morning. The climbing was slow up the steep snow-covered trail. The altitude and sharp grade combined for even slower going near the summit. “We took it really slow, but slow and steady was OK,” Wolfe said. “The last part was really steep. I was using my hands to climb up. Turp came and held my hand and pulled me up the last 10 feet.” Standing on a peak of Four Girls Mountain was worth all the effort. Turpin and Wolfe were now higher than any mountain peak in the contiguous United States (Mt. Whitney, Calif., 4,418 meters). “You could kind of tell how pretty it was going to be on the way up,” Turpin said. “But on the way up you could only see behind you. When you got to the peak, you had another 90 degrees of panorama. All the way around was snow-capped mountains, and the fact that we were on the second-tallest of all of them was neat.” Heading back down the mountain wasn’t without peril. The footing was rough coming down at such a steep angle and the snow made it slippery. However, everyone was able to avoid any trouble – sometimes by scooting down the snow on their rear ends. Once back at base camp, the sun had melted most of the snow and ice so that fresh water was available. The group was able to eat and continue down the mountain. Because of their workout programs and medicine before the trip, neither Turpin nor Wolfe experienced altitude sickness or any physical trouble. They were a tad sun, snow and wind burned, but they felt good. Next June, the couple – which will be married in July – is planning a trek to the Everest base camp at 5,600 meters in the Himalayas. “It’s a little higher than what we just did,” Turpin said with a smile, regarding the extra 1,800 feet of walking for Everest. By Kim Orendor Sias correspondent
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